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By Clyde Burt

The Newfoundland Airport was built specifically to accommodate what was envisaged to be a regular flow of commercial aircraft between North America and Europe, augmenting or replacing the flying boat service which already existed.

When it was completed and ready for operations in 1938, its paved runways were larger in area that those found anywhere else in the world. Its permanent buildings, though, were few indeed. They consisted of a railway station, a large aircraft hangar, a steam heating plant, a power generating plant, a few duplex dwelling houses, wireless radio receiver and transmitter sites and a large multi-functional administration building.

Administration Building

Construction of the airport’s Administration Building was started in 1937 and finished in the fall of 1938. It was occupied on November13, 1938 when S/L Pattison, along with his administrative staff and meteorological and radio communications personnel moved to the Newfoundland Airport from Botwood, where they had been supporting the trans-Atlantic flying boat operations.

Civilian Stage

The building had all the facilities that were necessary for the operation of an airport, including administration, wireless communications, a meteorological office and an air traffic control tower. Because there were few aircraft using the airport at that time, the control tower was not manned full time. Wireless operators filled in as needed. As well, the Post and Telegraphs and other civil services of the Newfoundland Government had offices there. Previously, telegraph communications had been handled by personnel at the railway station.

In addition, the building provided everything that was necessary to accommodate all of the single workers at the airport. Besides sleeping quarters, there was a kitchen, a dining room, a theatre,
a recreation room , a lounge and a bar - the first one licenced to sell spirits in Newfoundland.

Military Stage
With the outbreak of World War Two, arrangements with the various governments concerned were made quickly to change the civilian status of the airport to that of a military one.

This transition required very few changes to the actual functions of the various departments which occupied the Administration Building; but the arrival of military personnel, beginning with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Summer of 1940 and the United States Army Air Force in March, 1941, required the sharing of some spaces there, until facilities were provided elsewhere on the rapidly expanding airport.

When the Royal Air Force Ferry Command facilities were completed in 1941, the aircraft control tower, the meteorological offices and the wireless communications were relocated there. Other functions at the Administration Building continued as before.

On May 1, 1942 Trans Canada Airlines began a passenger and mail service between Canada and Newfoundland. They set up offices and a terminal in the Administration Building, which remained there until 1946.

Post War Stage

With the departure of military personnel after the war, the many now-vacant buildings on the airport were quickly modified to accommodate both the current residents of the Administration Building as well as the various offices of the Newfoundland Government Civil Service which , previously, had been located there.

The building remained vacant for several years. Having no further use, it was dismantled in the mid nineteen-fifties. The lumber from it was sold to individuals who used it in the construction of their homes in the new town of Gander.

control tower

First airport control tower in Administration Building





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